The Little Beet's Franklin Becker: "I Fell in Love With Food the First Time I Put a Fork in My Mouth"
In the 30 years since he first entered the kitchen, Franklin Becker has amassed shiny trophies of a successful culinary career: He landed "two very nice stars" from the New York Times while he was the executive chef at Local, earned a Best New Restaurant in America nod from Esquire for Capitale, and sustained a steady television presence, with appearances on heavy-hitting food shows like Iron Chef and Top Chef Masters.
Courtesy The Little Beet
"I fell in love with food the first time I put a fork in my mouth," Becker says, and that began a journey that would take him from assisting his mother in her kitchen after she had a stroke into his first restaurant job at age 14. He'd been hired as a busboy, but management soon sent him to the back of the house, where he's been since. "I was constantly seeing things you shouldn't see and things you should see," he recounts.
He went to the Culinary Institute of America, which propelled him to positions under chefs like Charlie Palmer and Bobby Flay, and he took his first executive chef position at Local in the mid-nineties, the first of many leadership roles in fine dining restaurants that would carry him through the next two decades.
Ready for a new challenge and inspired by health issues that hit close to home -- he's a type 2 diabetic; is son has autism and celiac disease -- he's heading the direction of many fine dining chefs exploring a new frontier: He just opened The Little Beet (135 West 50th Street, 212-459-2338), a fast casual restaurant built around gluten-free healthy options, in Midtown. "I decided to create this fast casual environment here that would still serve the best ingredients I could get but for a reasonable price point," he explains. "I wanted to make sure that people coming to the Little Beet leave here feeling good, feeling energized, feeling healthy, and wanting to come back again and again."
In this interview, he weighs in on the how TV has changed the restaurant industry, how the New York's food world is changing, and his best advice for new cooks.